Almost everyone has a military pedigree in this Navy town, so almost everyone claims to know a SEAL, a former SEAL or somebody else who does. After a while, you start thinking you see them everywhere, until you realize that even here, in the heart of SEAL country, all those years of speculation about bin Laden’s whereabouts have been replaced by a new post-Sept. 11 mystery: Where is the SEAL, or SEALs, who put the bullets in bin Laden? Someone has to know around here.
“They say they know who did it or they know someone who knows someone who did it,” said Carlie Kinzey, 18, a server at the Raven restaurant, which was a popular hangout for SEALs years ago when SEAL commando-turned-novelist Dick Marcinko’s daughter waited tables there.
Without fanfare, SEAL Team 6, as it’s popularly known, returned to its base outside this city last weekend after a congratulatory visit with President Obama. The Navy Times, citing unnamed sources, said the elite commandos — who actually go by the official name of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DevGru — are divided into four color-coded squadrons based at Dam Neck, Va. Of those, Red Squadron got the call because its 50 or so members, about half of whom were chosen for the raid, were on alert.
Since then, SEALs have become the object of almost feverish attention here, with many people feeling proud of their warriors’ heroics, protective of their identities and a little paranoid about the possibility of some al-Qaeda payback.
Even apparently well-grounded adults talk about the SEALs as the closest thing we know to comic book characters: They have superhuman powers to withstand cold, heights and fear! They have secret identities! They dive into the sea from submarines and leap from airplanes at 30,000 feet! They have cool zoomorphic job titles, like Spider-Man or Batman! They roll with the best high-tech gizmos and deadly toys! Even their trident insignia is snazzy! And such good manners!
“They could kill you with a straw 13 different ways, but they’re really nice,” said Allen Norfolk, 52, the manager of Chicks, a rumored SEAL hangout off Shore Drive.
Other supposed SEAL habitats include the Ready Room, Hot Tuna, C.P. Shuckers, Waterman’s Surfside Grill and, not so long ago, Guadalajara Mexican Bar on Shore Drive. Several seem no different than any seaside joint whose decor is a mix of contemporary American frat house and pirate ship: beer, monster-size burgers, NASCAR or ESPN on giant-screen TVs, fruity-slushy cocktails and some big, dead fish on the walls.